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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

Species contributions to single biodiversity values under-estimate whole community contribution to a wider range of values to society

Hiron, Matthew; Part, Tomas; Siriwardena, Gavin M.; Whittingham, Mark J.


A major task for decision makers is deciding how to consider monetary, cultural and conservation values of biodiversity explicitly when planning sustainable land use. Thus, there is a great need to understand just what "valuing" biodiversity or species really means, e.g. regarding how many and which species are important in providing ecosystem services or other values. Constructing ecosystem-level indices, however, requires weighting the relative contribution of species to the different values. Using farmland birds, we illustrate how species contribute to different biodiversity values, namely utilitarian (pest seed predation potential), cultural (species occurrence in poetry), conservational (declines and rarity) and inherent (all species equal) value. Major contributions to each value are often made by a subset of the community and different species are important for different values, leading to no correlations or, in some cases, negative correlations between species' relative contributions to different values. Our results and methods using relative contributions of species to biodiversity values can aid decisions when weighing different values in policies and strategies for natural resource management. We conclude that acknowledging the importance of the range of biodiversity values that are apparent from different perspectives is critical if the full value of biodiversity to society is to be realised.

Published in

Scientific Reports
2018, Volume: 8, article number: 7004

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    • Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG2 Zero hunger
      SDG15 Life on land

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